This is a very elegant chicken liver terrine that, if you season it right and cook it perfectly, can almost be mistaken for a foie gras mousse. This was something my mother would make now and then, certainly if she had a surplus of fresh chicken livers. We also used to make this at my uncle’s restaurant where I apprenticed—easy enough for home, elegant enough for a fine-dining restaurant. It’s important to find very good chicken livers—preferably from a butcher or at your farmers’ market. The fat back makes a lovely interior garnish. I poach it lightly in heavy cream to set its color, so that it’s very white, allowing for a lovely pop of color when you slice into the terrine. I like this served simply, with mustard and cornichons, paired with a green salad with a sharp vinaigrette and always with toasted bread.
Chicken Liver Terrine
Makes 10 to 15 portions
- 14 oz. pork fat back, very cold, even partially frozen for easy dicing
- 1⁄2 c. heavy cream
- 18 oz. chicken livers, halved and cleaned of any veins and fat
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Scant 1⁄4 c. port wine
- 1 to 2 tbsp. kirsch
- 2 tsp. salt
- 30 grinds pepper, or to taste
- 20 gratings nutmeg, or to taste
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 2 fresh bay leaves, halved
Put the terrine mold you’re using in a roasting pan (we use a standard 1.5-qt. terrine mold) and fill the pan with water to come three-quarters of the way up the mold. Remove the terrine mold and put the roasting pan into your oven and preheat it to 250°F (121°C).
Small dice the fat back. Combine half of it with the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Just before it comes to a simmer, remove the pan from the heat.
Puree the other half of the fat back in a food processor until it’s smooth, then pass it through a tamis or sieve. In the same processor bowl (no need to clean it), puree the livers. Pass them through a tamis or sieve. Combine the liver and back fat in a mixing bowl. Mix well together with a whisk and then add the warm cream with the poached diced fat to the liver mixture. Stir again, then add the beaten eggs, port, kirsch, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix very well with a whisk and double check the seasoning (yes, I taste it raw—if your livers are high quality, they should taste very neutral), adjusting as necessary.
Line the terrine mold with plastic wrap. (Try to make sure to smooth out as many of the wrinkles as possible. The best way to do this is to roll out one piece of plastic wrap on your kitchen counter, then roll out a second layer the same size to place on top; smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles with a dry paper towel. This method reduces the static.) Add the liver mixture. Smooth it out with a small spatula. Decorate the top with the thyme and bay leaves. Cover the terrine. Place it in the water bath in the oven for 1.5 hours.
Remove the terrine from the water bath. When it’s cool enough to handle, refrigerate it until thoroughly chilled. It’s best if it rests for a couple of days before you unmold, slice and serve it. Leftovers can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to a week.
This recipe was excerpted with permission from the new cookbook Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace.